Hello! I'm John Grayson and I hope you enjoy reading of my adventures as much as I enjoy participating in them. I am one of those technology professionals whose interests lie outside of technology. Instead of checking out techie stuff, I check out history, nature, sports, and alcohol. Have Fun!
Saturday, June 18, 2005
A Day at the Races
We woke up Saturday morning to weather that I expected: cool temperatures, clouds, and rain. This was the weather that JimmyG had hoped for during the race. He was awake a couple hours earlier then me, but he had to run The Mayor's Midnight Sun Marathon and I did not.
After breakfast I looked up the route for the race on-line so that Julie and I could go yell at him if he passed by. We arrived at our first vantage point very early. The people who were competing with hopes of actually winning hadn't even passed by yet. They came and went, and still JimmyG was nowhere to be seen. It might have been 45 minutes later that JimmyG ran by. Julie was so bored by the time he came that she forgot to take his picture.
We then drove over to another vantage point. This one was swarming with mosquitoes. Thankfully, I didn't spend much time here. After a few minutes JimmyG ran by, and I managed to take a picture - Julie didn't have her camera this time.
We then drove over to the finish line area to wait for him to catch up to us again. Right before the finish line is a fairly big hill. Most of the runners said it would be a tough hill to run up after a short race, but this was right about the 26 mile mark of a race that goes 26.2 miles. It took longer then expected for JimmyG to get to the finish line, but he finally made it. He clocked in at 4 hours and 21 minutes. He was the first finisher of the Nations Capital Chapter of the Leukemia Team in Training group. Understandable, he looked like he'd been hit by a truck.
We dropped JimmyG off at his hotel to rest while we wandered around Anchorage for the day. I wanted to stop by REI to rent a camp stove after United Airlines took offense to the one I had packed (I've since checked the TSA web site and you can travel with these if you leave the gas can at home, I left the gas at home). I also wanted to stop by the public lands building, and if time allowed, check out the Northern Lights show.
REI was a snap and we were off to the public lands building. We watched a few short videos about Alaska, and checked out their small museum. I then printed off a contour map for the hike we would be taking in a few days. We then walked a couple blocks to the arts center for the Northern Lights show. It turned out to be a movie that briefly discussed the science behind it, and then a lot of film was consumed with footage of it from points in the vicinity of Anchorage. Pretty cool to watch. Made me with I was there at a time of year that it actually gets dark enough to see the Northern Lights.
We now met up with JimmyG and the other runners for the post race party. Again, this was free dinner, but it had an expensive cash bar (beer cost $4, might as well be in DC or Baltimore). After dinner, a group of us went for a bar crawl. We caught sunset at about 11:50 from a rooftop bar, and then finished drinking at about 1 AM.
Friday, June 17, 2005
Views of Denali
We woke up fairly early on our first full day in Alaska. It was a bright and sunny morning. The only thing planned for this day was dinner with The Team in Training people at 4 in the afternoon. Julie turned on the TV and switched the channel that advertises things to do around Anchorage. One of the advertisements was for a lodge up in Talkeetna. The lodge was built on a hill overlooking the town, but it also had a pretty good view of Mt. McKinley.
Julie and I had discussed hanging around Anchorage this day, but after seeing this ad I suggested taking a roadtrip to Talkeetna. We picked up JimmyG at his hotel and I suggested driving up to Talkeetna. He was game because he hoped he would get to see Mt. McKinley while in Alaska and this seemed to be his best chance.
We started driving north. The scenery is pretty good most of the time. Once north or Anchorage you drive past a lot of snow-covered mountains. Then you get an area between two mountain ranges (Chugach to the south and Alaska to the north). At this point you begin to see Mt. McKinley. Still way off in the distance though.
After about 2 hours you get to the road to Talkeetna. We discussed visiting Talkeetna for a few minutes to see what was there before heading to the lodge for lunch so I drove right by the driveway to the lodge. Just after passing the lodge the road began to go down a hill, but smack in front of you is Mt. McKinley. I pulled into a parking area to get a good look thinking this would be the best view I would have.
The three of us posed for several pictures. There were lots of other tourists and one old wood carver. His wood carvings were intersting, but we left the parking lot without buying any.
The town of Talkeetna is small and easily visited in a couple hours. We went into several stores where we bought postcards and Julie bought some jams to bring home to friends.
JimmyG wandered over to a store with a model airplane in front. I joined him there and found that he was discussing an airplane ride around Mt. McKinley. Julie joined us and immediately expressed her interest in taking the tour. I had never done anything like that before and really never thought I would do something like that, but I also am not someone that will back out and cause others to not have the ride.
We signed on for the ride. The trip was scheduled to begin at noon and go for 2 hours. Perfect timing. That would get us back to Anchorage right about 4 for the dinner.
We drove out to the Talkeena airport. All small planes. One or two propellers. Ours was this little orange one. Not much room in it. You could probably get 6 small people in, but it would be a tight squeeze. JimmyG sat in the way back, Julie had the middle pair of seats to herself, and I rode shotgun. My seating was uncomfortable. While I had some legroom, I didn't want to use it because there were flight controls all around me and I wanted no part of touching one and causing trouble.
The ride was incredible though. The pilot taxied down to the runway, and then got the little plane accelerating. He then jiggled the steering wheel and the plane nosed down so that the back wheel left the ground. Then he pulled the wheel toward him and the plane left the ground. I've been in a lot of airplanes, but this was a lot of fun. Usually I would take a nap while flying, but not this time.
The tour took us from Talkeetna to the Alaska Range. We passed over some rivers and a glacier on our way. When got up to the mountains, and then flew over some and around those taller then 10,000 feet (this plane should not go above that because of thin air for breathing). We then passed over base camp for the mountainers climbing the various peaks in the area. During the tour I picked out a group climbing one of the smaller mountains. We also got a close up view of Mt. McKinley.
Towards the end of the tour we flew along a glacier and out over a meadow with little rivers and lakes. While passing over one of lakes our pilot said that he usually sees moose down there. Sure enough, he pointed to what he said was a moose. He then radioed back to the airport that he was leaving Moose Meadows and heading back in. From a few hundred feet I guess it could have been a log positioned there so that all of the tours get to see a moose.
Anyway, the tour was complete and worth the $175. If I get back I would do it again, and I would opt for landing at base camp to wander around for a few minutes in the fresh air.
We then headed back to Anchorage. The air conditioner in the car didn't work, and with temperatures in the mid-80's I was sweaty. I didn't expect to be sweating up there but I sure was. We made it back to Anchorage at about 5 PM, but still had time to eat the free dinner.
Thursday, June 16, 2005
Off to Alaska
This is the first part of a series on my vacation to Alaska. I am backdating each post to the date covered by the post. There might be one or two days skipped on account of the day being somewhat boring, but I'm not sure yet. I also hope to figure out how to add pictures.
The first day of the trip of course is the airplane ride. We (myself and Juliana) got up early and made our way to Reagan National Airport. We both had extra luggage because of our planned trip. Not only would we be doing some of the standard tourist stuff, but we also planned some hiking that included an overnight backpack trip into the woods.
Included in my gear was my camp stove. Not really a stove, but more of a pot for boiling water that can then be used to rehydrate a dehydrated meal. This thing is called a JetBoil, and is able to boil water very quickly due to design.
Well, to shorten a long story I'll just say that United Airlines didn't like the JetBoil. In fact, the suggestion of the lady at the counter was that I should throw it in the trash. Crap, that thing cost me $70 and I haven't had my full use of it yet. I argued and she told me to discuss it with the TSA guys who would scan my luggage. They checked it out and had no problem with it so I stuffed it back in my checked baggage.
After passing through security we had some time to kill. While reading the newspaper we were paged to return to the United counter. I approached the gate area and found out that United still didn't like my JetBoil. In fact they had such a strong dislike for it that they threatened to remove me and my luggage from the flight. I of course protested that TSA inspected it and said it was ok to go on the plane.
At this point the gate area supervisor approached. He gave me a story about how I would not be able to fly if they could not locate my bag and remove it from the plane to remove the JetBoil. I don't know about you, but what's the problem with me riding on the plane if you already have my luggage on the plane that contains something you find offensive. I had enough sense not to go vocal with those words at the instant in question. I just stared blankly at them.
A second later, the supervisor realized I had called his bluff. He suggested that he would go down to the baggage area, find my bags, and remove the JetBoil. He also said he would put the JetBoil in the baggage claim office so that when I returned it would be waiting for me. The lady working at the gate even printed out a copy of my itinerary to attach to the JetBoil so that when I asked for it they could match it by name to me.
Oh well, off to Alaska. We left Washington, DC late in the morning and got to Anchorage about 6 PM. After working our way through baggage claim and the rental car area it was about 7:30. Off to the hotel.
Anchorage has a good assortment of restaurants and beer. We were worn out and just wanted to go someplace quick and cheap. I had a book about traveling in Alaska so we consulted it for a dinner suggestion. One of the first places it lists for Anchorage is a pizzeria/brew pub named Moose's Tooth
. This is quite a popular place for food and beer. There was a 30 minute wait before we could be seated, but it was worth it. We had some good pizza and drinks. Juliana went non-alcoholic and tried the root beer. I had their ESB. A nice ending to a long day.
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
The Adams Family
No, not the creepy and spooky family. This would be the most important family in the formation of my country. Not the most important person, but the most important family.
I visited the Adams National Historic Park today. I did the touristy thing and started at the National Park Service Visitors Center. There I watched part of a generic video on the Revolutionary War, and when I became bored with that I bought a $5 ticket to see the houses where John Adams, and his son John Quincy Adams were born. These were small farm homes for people who were not rich, but were gaining wealth. From there I boarded a bus and was taken to "Peacefield." This was the house that John and Abigail (his wife) bought when they were returning from England. This was a much bigger house, but still not quite as large as some of the mansions they became accustomed to living in Europe for a few years. The tour bus then took me back to the visitor center.
This was worth doing. The first location was nice to see with the two houses sitting exactly where they had been built in the late 1600's. Peacefield was better because the house was decorated with things the Adams family owned. The family donated the three houses and the land they sit on to the government to open to the public.
My next stop was the United First Parish Church. John Adams died in 1826 and was buried in the cemetery across the street. John Quincy Adams had his mothers and fathers bodies moved to tombs within the church. After the death of John Quincy and his wife, Louisa Catherine, there son, Charles Francis, had their bodies moved to tombs within the church as well.
Walking into the tomb was interesting. John Adams is one of the most important men of the revolution. He was part of the group that wrote The Declaration of independence. He wrote the constitution for the state of Massachusetts. His constitution for Massachusetts became the model for the constitution created for The United States of America. His Massachusetts constitution contained a bill of rights, and yes, our Bill of Rights was modeled after the one he wrote for Massachusetts.
During the war John Adams was sent to Europe to secure funding for the war. He was able to secure loans from the Dutch and France. He also helped write the Treaty of Paris to officially end the war in 1783.
After the war, John Adams served as the new nations first minister to England. He was in Europe during the Constitutional Convention in 1787, but his influence was strong enough to help form a strong federal government to stand the test of time. Under the new government John Adams was the first Vice President, and the second President. His son John Quincy was the countries sixth President.
An amazing family. For more details go to the library and read John Adams by David McCullough. I have it at home if you want to borrow it from me.
Hanging Out in Woonsocket, RI
Business travel has me in Rhode Island for a quick meeting. I left home today and used Reagan National Airport for the first time. I decided to use National because the flight up here could be completed without changing planes anywhere.
I found National to be a nice change. It's not as busy as BWI. It's smaller then BWI. Economy parking is closer to the terminal. I will fly back home Friday morning and hopefully baggage claim will be faster then BWI.
Enough about that though. More interesting to most of you will be my visit to The Foxwoods Casino. Over the past few years I have been lucky enough to try out both casinos in eastern Connecticut. The Foxwoods is the better of the two if you are looking for a game of Blackjack. The Mohegan Sun Casino has constant shuffling decks of cards. I prefer to have the dealer work his/her way through a shoe and then shuffle the cards. Some people might prefer the shuffling machines working all the time, but I like the pause between shoes.
I did my usual at the table. I started out with $100. The first shoe hurt me a bit but left me with about $50. The next shoe made my evening. I finished that shoe with about $210. I had only been at the table for about 20 minutes so I colored up $100 and put it in my pocket so that I would at the worst break even. Well, the next hour went like a roller coaster. Up and down. Up and down. It was getting late and I still had $50 on the table so I decided to cash out and head for my hotel an hour away from the casino. At the end of the evening I had turned my original $100 into $150. Very typical for me.
Back Again! Maybe I'll Keep with it this Time
Ok, it's been about 6 months since I gave an update. I would like to say that I've been too busy, but that's not true. It also wouldn't be true if I said there was nothing to write about. So yes, I have been busy, and some of it might have been interesting if anyone had been interested enough to check up on me.
I'll give a brief history of the last 6 months:
Meet a new girl (Juliana) in early January. Started dating her in the middle of the month. At the end of January went to Copper Mountain, Colorado for a snowboarding vacation.
In February I continued dating Juliana. I also organize a winter sports trip for the Boozehounds to Snowshoe in West Virginia.
March, April, and May passed with me spending my time with Juliana.
I've done a lot of hikes this year. Already been to Maryland Heights near Harpers Ferry, Patapsco State Park near Baltimore, Shenandoah National Park for a 3 waterfall hike, two thirds of the Billy Goat Trail in Great Falls Park, Duncan Knob in the George Washington National Forest, and False Cape State Park near Virginia Beach.
I've also done some reenactments. The first was in Alexandria, Virginia for George Washington's birthday. The second was at Drayton Hall near Charleston, South Carolina for the 225th anniversary of the siege of Charleston in 1780.